Are Mattress Industry Problems Creating a Race to the Bottom?

Is the Mattress Industry in a Race to the Bottom

I’ve seen many cycles during my 45 years in the furniture and mattress business.

Mattress industry problems are part of a cycle starts with a good product. Something is well made and well received. Soon other manufacturers and retailers notice the product. Then the inevitable cheapening of the product begins. Corners get cut, quality is lost to price and inevitably, the original company that manufactured the quality product stops producing it. The cheap and poorly made copies reduce the demand because of their inferior quality and the product becomes nothing but a commodity, a footnote in the history of that furnishing category. Some examples of this cycle that come to mind are metal bunk beds, black lacquer furniture, and metal and brass beds. There are many other mattress industry problems.

I can now foresee this occurring with a product that is near and dear to my heart – latex mattresses.

First, let me say that after 45+ years in the mattress business. I believe that there is no better mattress material for comfort and longevity than pure, botanical latex. A mattress of 100% botanical latex (no synthetic latex) should last 10 to 25 years with little loss of comfort or support. Such mattresses show little or no depression over that time. Latex Mattresses have been our specialty for the past 30+ years with over 25 different models on our floor, most built to our own specifications. Two-sided and flippable is our rule. So, what are the mattress industry problems?

Lately, latex has become the hot item and the cheapening in price and quality is happening.

Many stores have “discovered” latex. Many manufacturers are using synthetic latex (SBR – Styrene Butadiene Rubber, made from petroleum and solvents) because it is cheaper. They are calling their product “Natural” to get an edge. Some are laminating an inch or two of SBR latex to a block of polyurethane foam and calling it a latex mattress. Often they are only upholstered on one side, eliminating the ability to flip the mattress to get maximum life and comfort. The unwary or uninformed consumer is the victim of these retailers, often paying a high price in both money and the sting of poor quality. Many of these manufacturers and retailers represent their products as natural or pure latex.

Catching them lying is unlikely, because latex is inside a sewn cover.

Unfortunately, even researching on the internet is difficult because there is a lot of deception. One manufacturer of synthetic latex represents their latex as being all natural. They’ve flooded the internet with smoke and mirrors. Their “signature product is 80% synthetic SBR and 20% botanical. The product is “tested” to be longer lasting than botanical latex but the test is done at 158 degrees, the lowest temperature where it can test as more durable. Also, petroleum and solvent based synthetic latex, unlike botanical latex, off gasses noticeably for many weeks and even months after opening the mattress.

All of this cheapening of the product I call a race to the bottom.

My concern is that negative reviews will sully the much deserved, outstanding reputation of botanical latex. Some of broken down mattresses represented as latex have little or no real rubber. Pressure to compromise, to appease consumers who shop price alone is ever-present.  Those customers don’t understanding what they are getting. We won’t do it.

“Can’t Flip” “No Flip” mattresses represent the same mattress industry problems. However, we have found taking the high road is best.  Sticking with durable products is in the best interest of our customers, our store, and our planet.

I do hold out hope. The cycle for latex can be different. Maybe consumer will be better informed. I don’t hold out much hope that the manufacturers and retailers will get a conscience.

2 thoughts on “Are Mattress Industry Problems Creating a Race to the Bottom?

  1. Claudio Brumen says:

    Nice blog. I found it while browsing for two-sided mattresses. If you were in Houston I’d buy from you!

    My wife and I got up this Saturday morning and we concluded that we got ripped off with This can’t-flip mattress. It’s five years old, sags terribly, and now we have to shell out money for another one.

    • Jeff Garfield says:


      I sympathize with you and the can’t flip mattress. There is so much money for the mattress companies in disposable product that I don’t think they will go back to making long lasting, two sided models except for the hotel/motel industry (that won’t buy one sided ones). The cost saving in eliminating the second side of the mattress has made these companies lots of money and then the companies are resold at a profit. It is no longer the goal solely to make a profit on the product but on the resale of the companies to private equity firms and retirement funds. All the big “S” brands (Sealy/Stearns & Foster, Simmons, Serta, Springaire) are now owned by private equity or retirement funds – the mattress people are gone.

      A two-side, flippable mattress will last 2 to 3 times as long. The key is to reduce or eliminate poly foams, soy and memory foams as they are the culprits in mattress depressions.

      My recommendation, as it is in my Store, is to get a botanical (as opposed to “natural”, which can be 80% synthetic) latex mattress with either latex or wool cushion layers on both sides. Queen size botanical latex mattresses start at $999.95 and go up from there. We have 25+ of these on our floor. Many can be sent UPS because they can roll up. We ship them all over the country including Utah, Alabama and Texas just this week! The one I would recommend as a popular and problem free mattress comes in a firm or plush version with a 6″ botanical latex core, an additional layer of a softer botanical latex on each side and a wool layer under the organic cotton cover. This model sells for $1799.95 in the plusher version and $1899.95 in the firm. Good, less expensive models are available, too. Shipping on queen size, if via UPS, would be included and there would be no sales tax. King size would have a shipping charge as it needs to go by truck.

      We would like to have your business and will do a good job for you. I would also be happy to advise on other mattresses if you would like.

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